SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 299: “Be A Little Bit Nicer”

Last night I barely slept, constantly being awakened by post Fourth of July explosions. Explosions that even prior to tonight have been detonated frequently over the last week.

No… they are not playful firecrackers, they explode with window shaking thunder at the earliest hours of the morning… very disruptive, obviously illegal and incredibly disrespectful the entire community.

For four days, I’ve scanned the streets, searching for the people behind these ear-ringing detonations. And to that cause, I have charged myself to a war of wits in strategizing further methods of tactics, should they again re-deploy tonight or next year.

The reality is that Forth of July is a day of celebration, Not a day of aggressive partying. It’s a hallowed date that commemorates the battles fought and lives lost to free a Nation from an oppressive government. A government that taxed without representation, a government that viewed its held people as commodities and resources and a government that pushed a brave nation to its very brink in exploiting it resources.

Sure we shoot fireworks. But for more than entertainment, for they are a symbol of battles won and lives lost in creating a land where freedom and liberty is possible to all whom seek it.

A day that I too, until writing this entry, have not fully embraced. That saddens me a little, pointing a finger at me as I realize that far too many of us have come to lose focus on the true symbolism of this day, Not the Fourth of July… But Independence Day.

And to my neighborhood terrorizing friends, knock it off…! Think about it!

Readers… know that I have no malice in my above rant. It’s mostly induced from the side effects of multiple nights of sleep deprivation. But in it is a through-line that we must extract.

My wife sums it up nicely in a discussion we have. She tells me of an article in which she read… the findings of a street survey. A survey that asked the question of was the declaration of independence necessary and does it no longer apply. In my mind, a slap in the face to every person who lives in the United States, and to the brave men and women who have given life and limb to preserve the rights that far too many take for granted.

Now I have to mention that I’m a Brit. Been living in America for all of my life. So when I think of the 4th, I look at both sides of the coin. And in doing so must silence a moment of respect for all (Both Brit and Colonist) who died in the succession of America from the British Monarchy. It was a tragic time, where because of the greed of the few, great multitudes of humankind suffered. We see it in the world today; too much global conflict to count, all of which is spired forward by a limitless count of hidden agendas. So looking back to the simplest of reason for the war of 1776, the cause is just, simply freedom from oppression; a fight that allowed man, woman and child the right to live as they see fit, and to be respected for who they are.

In a way we are not that different now, political suppressions are still abound, hidden agendas of the wealthy are as rampant as ever and the reactions of the uneducated is never lacking.

But for this July tribute all that I ask is that you consider one thought in you everyday actions, are you respecting you neighbor, and living with grace in counting your blessings?

I know, another, soapbox start to a blog entry. I’m do apologize; sometimes I just can’t help it. Guess that’s what makes me so lovable.

Sure, I gush a little, part of my character, but today I’m feeling especially wordy, after meeting todays stranger turned friend, single mother, working professional and ambassador of thinking justly, Amy.

She begins with a set of humble life guides, “Take life slow. Listen to people who you think are wise. Learn as much as you can and always pay attention.”

If there is one thing I have learned in 365; that is to listen. And as Amy recommends, “To listen to people who we thinks are wise.” That is a key point, and from what I am learning, wisdom does not always come though a diploma, via a six-digit bank statement or as a result of public visibility.

Wisdom is hard-earned and subtle. It is an expression of experiences had. Of successes won, and more poignantly battles lost.

It is a byproduct of life past, and is driven by our sheer tenacity to absorb. Again, as so simply outlined by Amy, “Always pay attention.”

Amy is honest, forthright and concerned for the world our children will inherit.

“As far as the planet…” she introduces, “…I’m from Texas, and I think as far as globally and keeping the earth green and everything, I’m all for that.

But, sometimes I wonder if what we are actually doing is fruitful, or if we are just making more people money.

People are always talking about… recycling, recycling. And being here in California, my son goes to a school where people are preaching a lot about it. But I’ve noticed that people don’t always practice what they preach.

The last election I remember a woman who went on and on about what she was going to do about the planet, and then I went over to her house. She had a pool, she had the hose water going and it was on a slide. The water was spewing everywhere. She didn’t recycle in her home, and stuff like that. It saddened me to recognize that she did not practice what she preached to everybody. The hypocrisy of it infuriated me, and that is what I see everywhere.

I wish that people would practice what they preach, and I hate to say that I don’t see that enough.

I wish that in the future, people would do that more. But I don’t see it happening as much as it needs to. I just see things getting worse. People are not teaching their children. They leave their kids with nannies… they go out partying and play… they are not raising their children… they are not instilling morals in their kids.

I see kids cussing at age two or three or four years old. They are not learning any good values… and it scares me.”

I have a daughter and it scares me too. But in speaking with Amy, it is apparent that she is not digging her head into the sand in turning away from her positive outlook regarding the power of the individual, something that she is doing her best to instill into her son. And, in a vicarious way, Amy instills in us, as we read of her accounts and the observations she has noted, the same activation in guiding our children.

Regarding the media and social respect, “’My son started out on Cary Grant and Fred Astaire movies. He says ‘yes mam’ and ‘no mam…’ He’s polite and respectful. But here in California, teachers tell him to not call them sir. One teacher even rebuked my son, saying, ‘Don’t ever call me sir… you are not in military school… it sets you apart from other children.’”

That one gets my goat. I see it myself in the attitudes of the kid my daughter plays with. And you know what… the kids with the greatest esteem are the ones who call me Mr. Radstone. What’s that telling us?

Amy elaborated on the account, “I was also told to tell him not to do that… I completely disagreed. The next year he opened a door for a female teacher. And that teacher was completely offended that he called her mam. She said that she was not an old lady, and that she did not need to be called mam. And, I think that one time she stepped up onto a stool to get a book. My son offered to help her so she did not need to use the stool. She contacted me to tell me that I was raising my son to be a male chauvinist pig. He told me he was just trying to a gentleman.”

Amy worries, “’Life is changing and I don’t think it is in a positive direction.

Those are the kind of things that I see daily. I’m just thinking of the future of my child. We are parents.

I really hope that if one person does something good… if my son opens a door for somebody, that somebody says, ‘Oh that was nice, somebody has not opened the door for me in a long time.’

Then maybe a husband will start opening a door for other people. Or somebody will treat a waiter nicely as they refill a water-glass, saying ‘thank you.’

It endless, there are all these thankless jobs out there and nobody appreciates the people who are doing these jobs. People are driving around and honking at people who are working outside in 110-degree heat. And, all they are thinking about is ‘I’ve got to get to work.’”

I flash back to the bombs that have been blasting for the last several days, and doing the best I can to remain humble as I work out my issues within a sleepy brain. I look at it from both sides and have come to a conclusion.

It is not mine to judge, or to condemn, my nearby friends. Nor is it under my power to dictate their decision in the toys they choose to play with. They are accountable for their own agency, and the resulting outcome of their daily actions. And it is, without guile, I do desire my unknown neighbor to experience some sort of accountability or a just penalty for their actions.

But greater than that is the sadness that has fallen upon me in reflection on them. That sadness can only be defined as yet another account of dishonor, and a negative ratification of the influence we all have on the world around us.

Yes, I accept that my family has been on the receiving end of this disrespect. I do not take it lightly and will still do what I must to discover the origins of the house of disturbing explosions. That is the responsibility of my calling as a father and provider.

Just like that of the greater battles that led to the freedoms that we are acknowledging every year on the Fourth of July, and although not armed with physical weapon, I am still required to bear emotional arms. The battle is a battle of respect. Respect that Amy fears is disappearing from society.

Respect that is not earned though murders of character, violence or useless confrontation, but a respect that goes to the core of who we are: People who deservingly desire to be treated fairly.

To my friends lighting the fuses, I promise we will meet one day. And perhaps once we do, you will understand that the choices you are making influence a greater community. We are with you in wanting you to have fun on the 4th. Blow up as much as you like… Just keep it on the 4th only, and between the hours of 8:00pm and 10:00pm. And please, be safe my illusive friends, by the sound of it, your handling very large charges.

To conclude, I share a wish of Amy’s. Simply, she asks us all one basic respect, “Just be a little bit nicer.